Poiana richardsoniiAfrican linsang

Geographic Range

African linsangs (Poiana richardsonii) are endemic to West Africa from Sierra Leone to northern Congo. They are also found on Bioko Island (formerly known as the island of Fernando Póo). (Haltenorth and Diller, 1980; Nowak, 1999; Rosevear, 1974)


Found in the forests of Zaire, P. richardsonii is also native to the woodlands of West Africa between Gabon and Sierra Leone. Poiana richardsonii is mostly documented inhabiting the rainforest regions of these areas. In the Irangi rainforest, in eastern Zaire, African linsangs have been located at an altitude of about 950 m. In the Makokou rainforest, in northeast Gabon, they have been found between altitudes of 300 and 500 m. (Delany and Happold, 1979; Haltenorth and Diller, 1980; Parker, 1990; Rosevear, 1974)

  • Range elevation
    300 to 950 m
    984.25 to 3116.80 ft

Physical Description

African linsangs are a relatively small member of the family Viverridae. The average head and body length is between 33 and 38 cm. The length of the tail is generally between 35 and 40 cm. Poiana richardsonii is approximately 15 to 18 cm tall at the shoulder, and usually weighs between 500 and 700 g. There are no reported differences in the size between males and females. African linsangs have slender bodies with medium-sized, rounded, triangular ears and a pointed muzzle.

Pelage varies from a pale-yellow to a brownish-grey or orange-brown on the dorsal side of the body. The ventral side of the body is white to cream-colored. The dorsal side has rounded-to-oval spots that are dark brown to black. These spots occur in irregular rows of 4 to 5 on each side of the body. The spots along the shoulders and back often merge into stripes. Occasionally, individuals have a thin, black stripe running from the back of the nose to the root of the tail. The long, cylindrical tail has between 10 and 14 black rings that vary in width. The tip of the tail is either black or light colored.

The legs are short, the forelegs being slightly shorter than the hind legs, with the hind legs black on the underside. Poiana richardsonii has hairy soles, except for the pads of their digits. There are 5 toes on both the forefeet and hind feet and the claws are somewhat curved and semi-retractile.

The eyes are of medium size. The canines of P. richardsonii are slender, the premolars are sharp-cusped, and the molars are relatively small. The lower jaw is noted to be weak in this species. Dentition is 3/3-1/1-4/4-1/2.

Poiana richardsonii is distinguishable from Asiatic linsangs, Priondon, in that the spots of Asiatic linsangs are smaller and do not run into bands or stripes except in the head and shoulder region. African linsangs also have a perineal gland that is lacking in Asiatic linsangs. African linsangs are different from genets, Genetta, in that the former are missing the last upper molar, whereas genets still have this tooth. (Haltenorth and Diller, 1980; MacDonald, 2004; Nowak, 1999; Rosevear, 1974)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    500 to 700 g
    17.62 to 24.67 oz
  • Range length
    68 to 78 cm
    26.77 to 30.71 in


The mating system of P. richardsonii has not been studied.

Little is known about reproduction of African linsangs, except that they can have 1 to 2 litters per year and 2 to 3 young per litter. An individual female was noted lactating in October. ("Bearers of Musk - Viverridae", 1972; Haltenorth and Diller, 1980; Nowak, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    African linsangs breed 1 to 2 times per year.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season is unknown.
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 3

Nothing is currently known about the parental care of African linsangs. However, as mammals, we may assume that the female provides her young with milk. Most carnivores are altricial at birth, so it is likely to be the case for this species as well. Carnivore young are typically cared for by the mother in a nest or den of some type until they are able to accompany her while foraging. Poiana richarsonii is probably similar to other members of the order Carnivora in this regard. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • female


The lifespan of P. richardsonii in the wild is not known, but one individual lived in captivity for 5 years and 4 months. Human activities such as logging, farming, mining and hunting have limited the lifespan of P. richarsonii and caused a rapid decline in the natural forests of Liberia. (Nowak, 1999; Taylor, 1989)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    5.3 years


African linsangs are entirely nocturnal and either live alone or in pairs. They are arboreal creatures, and they build nests consisting of mostly green material in which they sleep for a few days before moving on and building a new nest. The nest is generally about 2 m off the ground. Occasionally, multiple linsangs will occupy the same nest. (Haltenorth and Diller, 1980; MacDonald, 2004; Nowak, 1999)

Home Range

The home range size for P. richarsonii is not known.

Communication and Perception

Communication of African linsangs has not been studied. Since anal glands are present in this species it is presumed they are used for olfactory communication. In genets, Genetta, the anal glands emit a fluid that has a musty smell. Viverrids, Viverridae, typically emit an unpleasant odor from the anal glands as a defense mechanism. Viverrids are known to use some vocalizations and also have really good eyesight. Tactile communication undoubtedly occurs between individuals nesting together, between mates, and between mothers and their offspring. ("Bearers of Musk - Viverridae", 1972; Nowak, 1999)

Food Habits

African linsangs are omnivorous. They eat a variety of foods including insects, young birds, cola nuts, fruits and other plant material. They are also known to eat small vertebrates, although this is not a major portion of their diet. (Delany and Happold, 1979; Haltenorth and Diller, 1980; Nowak, 1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


Humans, Homo sapiens, are the only known predators of P. richardsonii. They are usually hunted for the spotted coat and infrequently hunted for bushmeat. Nothing is currently known about the non-human predators of P. richardsonii, although given their size, they could be prey to nocturnal predators like owls, larger carnivores, and large snakes. (Harrington, et al., 2002; Harrington, et al., 2002; Nowak, 1999; Taylor, 1989)

Ecosystem Roles

Nothing is currently known about the roles African linsangs play in the ecosystem. As omnivores, they are likely to play some role in structuring plant and prey communities. As possible prey items themselves, these animals may contribute to the food base of other species.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

It is not known if African linsangs are economically important to humans. Natives of Liberia make medicine bags from the skins of P. richardsonii. Bioko's Nigerian Moslem Community is known to use the coat of African linsangs for wallets and wristbands. They are of interest to local villagers because the skins are considered attractive and can be used as ornamentation. African linsangs are not known to have been kept as domestic pets. (Harrington, et al., 2002; Nowak, 1999; Rosevear, 1974; Taylor, 1989)

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known negative effects of P. richardsonii on humans.

Conservation Status

Poiana richardsonii has always been a rare species, so it is believed to be endangered. There are not enough data, however, to be certain. Currently, IUCN officially lists P. r. liberiensis as data deficient in the Ivory Coast and Liberia. However, there have been consistent sitings from Bioko Island. In 1966, two pelts and three freshly killed carcasses were recovered. In 2000, one individual was photographed multiple times and in 2001, two skins were found hanging in the doorway in a local village. A German mammalogist, Martin Eisentraut, described African linsangs as, "definitely not rare on Fernando Po." ("UNEP-WCMC Species Database", 2001; Harrington, et al., 2002; Parker, 1990; Taylor, 1989)

Other Comments

Poiana richardsonii is commonly called an oyan. There are thought to be two subspecies of P. richardsonii. These are P. r. liberiensis and P. r. richardsonii. The subspecies can be distinguished on the basis of the bands around the tail, the former having 10 to 12 equal sized bands and the latter having 12 to 14 bands and narrow dark band in the center of each light band. The generic name, Poiana, is derived from the African island of Fernando Po. (Nowak, 1999; Rosevear, 1974; Taylor, 1989; Nowak, 1999; Rosevear, 1974; Taylor, 1989; Nowak, 1999; Rosevear, 1974; Taylor, 1989; "Bearers of Musk - Viverridae", 1972; Nowak, 1999; Rosevear, 1974; Taylor, 1989)


Corinna Gillette (author), Humboldt State University, Brian Arbogast (editor, instructor), Humboldt State University.

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


1972. Bearers of Musk - Viverridae. Pp. 35-41 in H Kondo, J Tesar, D Cloud, L Kagan, eds. Civets, Genets, and Linsangs, Vol. 2, 3rd Edition. Milan: Fratelli Fabbri Editori.

2001. "UNEP-WCMC Species Database" (On-line). Accessed March 17, 2005 at http://quin.unep-wcmc.org/isdb/Taxonomy/tax-species-result.cfm?displaylanguage=eng&Genus=%25Poiana%25&source=animals&Species=richardsonii&Country=.

Delany, M., D. Happold. 1979. Ecology of African Mammals. London and New York: Longman Group Limited.

Haltenorth, T., H. Diller. 1980. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Africa including Madagascar. London: Collins.

Harrington, R., R. Berghaier, G. Hearn. 2002. The Status of Carnivores on Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea. Small Carnivore Conservation, 27: 19-22.

MacDonald, D. 2004. The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Parker, S. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.

Rosevear, D. 1974. The Carnivores of West Africa. London: British Museum (Natural History).

Taylor, M. 1989. New records of two species of rare Viverrids from Liberia. Mammalia, 53/1: 122-125.